The Dance of the Pheasant

Golden Pheasant, Tresco island

For the past several weeks, I have been lecturing on photography aboard the National Geographic Explorer, sailing between Madeira and the British Isles.  We have another week to go, as we head north towards Scotland – and some of the wild seabird islands that, for me, will be the high point of the trip.

Wildlife has been elusive this trip – a few whales and dolphins at sea, and some seabirds on offshore rocks.  But on the Isles of Scilly, off the Cornish coast, I had an encounter with a surprising bird – a Chinese Golden Pheasant. Not native to the UK, this gaudy bird roams free on these islands, presumably to brighten up the landscape. (or maybe for hunting…)

Either way, I spent about an hour trying to get a shot of  the pheasant, with its almost impossible array of colors – and eventually got this one, a moment of bizarre behavior that shows off the birds extravagant plumage. What’s he doing? No idea – maybe reaching up to have a scratch. But it was the best shot of the day.

Yesterday, we found ourselves in a rainstorm on the Irish Aran Islands – a bleak, gray afternoon when staying in a pub seemed a better use of time than taking pictures. Then I found the most astonishing cluster of eroded limestone along the shore, and spent a happy hour shooting these wonderful rock patterns.

On to Scotland tomorrow.

Eroded Limestone, Inisheer, Aran Islands

Pheasant : Nikon D3, 70-200mm lens

Rocks: Nikon D3, 14-24mm lens